The Collison Newsletter February 2016


               MONOSODIUM  GLUTAMATE  (MSG)*   



Naturally-occurring monosodium glutamate (MSG, also known as sodium glutamate) is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most abundant naturally-occurring non-essential amino acids. Nature’s MSG is found in tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, and other vegetables and fruits, and presents no health problems.


However, non-naturally occurring MSG is used in the food industry as a flavour enhancer, to intensify the meaty, savoury flavour of food, as naturally occurring glutamate does, in foods such as stews and meat soups. MSG as a flavour enhancer balances, blends and rounds the perception of other tastes. It is particularly popular in Korean, Japanese and Chinese cuisine.


MSG as a food-additive was first prepared by Japanese biochemist Kikunae Ikeda, who was seeking to isolate and duplicate the savoury taste of kombu, an edible seaweed used as a base for many Japanese soups.


On a larger scale, MSG has since been produced by three methods:

  • Hydrolysis of vegetable proteins with hydrochloric acid to disrupt peptide bonds (1909-1962)
  • Direct chemical synthesis with acrylonitrile (1962-1973)
  • Bacterial fermentation (the current method).

Currently (2016), most global MSG is produced by bacterial fermentation.


It is this non-naturally occurring, large-scale industry-produced MSG that causes health problems.


The European Union classifies it as a food additive permitted in certain foods and subject to quantitative limits. MSG has the HS code 29224220 and the E number E621.


The following is taken from my August 2007 newsletter Food Additives: Tartrazine, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Sulphites, and Caramel:

"621, MSG, Monosodium Glutamate 

This additive is highly complex due to the many foods containing MSG that do not declare MSG and that are not labeled appropriately. Thus it is essential to have a separate ‘code-breaking’ list.


Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the most widely used flavour enhancer.


If 621 and/or monosodium glutamate or MSG is on the label, then the product contains this flavour enhancer.


The absence of 621 or MSG on the label does not, necessarily, mean that the product does not contain MSG, or is free from MSG. Yes, this is a double negative, but it must be emphasised that, in this instance, the absence of 621 / MSG on the label does not guarantee an absence of MSG.


For example, if the label lists the ingredient HVP, we know that hydrolysed vegetable protein is present in the food. So? You may well ask. You are supposed to know that HVP contains (significant amounts of) MSG. Because MSG is within the product HVP, and has not been added to the food in its own right, 621 / MSG does not have to be declared on the food label.


MSG is not only a flavour enhancer. It is also an excitatory neurotransmitter, also called an excitotoxin. Aspartame is another excitotoxin – see my July 2007 newsletter Aspartame - Safe or Toxic?’.


An excitotoxin is a type of chemical transmitter that allows brain cells to communicate. The problem is that excitotoxins can literally excite your brain cells to death.


Aside from harming your brain, MSG has been linked to (as the cause of) a long list of symptoms including:


Nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting

Irregular heart beat, rapid pulse


Sleep disorders


Memory disturbance


Eye damage, blurred vision


Fluid retention

Muscle soreness, joint pains and swelling




Thus it is essential to know, especially if you suffer from any of the symptoms listed above, if you are ingesting MSG, and that it may be the cause of the symptom(s).


The following two lists are adapted from

  • Foods always contain MSG when these words on are the label:

Autolyzed Plant Protein (APP)

Autolyzed yeast

Calcium or sodium caseinate



Glutamic acid

Hydrolysed Plant Protein (HPP)

Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein (HVP)

Monopotassium glutamate

Monosodium glutamate


Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

Yeast extract

Yeast food or nutrient.

  • MSG is often found in:


Barley malt




Citric acid (when processed from corn)


Corn syrup and corn syrup solids

Dough conditioners

Enriched “anything”

Enzyme modified “anything”

Fermented “anything”



Flowing agents


“Low” or “no fat” items

Malt extract

Malt flavouring


Milk powder

Milk solids

Modified food starch

Natural chicken, beef, or pork flavouring, seasonings


Protein fortified “anything”

Protein from wheat, rice or oats

Rice syrup or brown rice syrup


Soy protein

Soy protein isolate or concentrate

Soy sauce


Vitamin enriched


Whey protein

Whey protein isolate or concentrate

Yeast nutrients.

It is obvious that MSG is much more prevalent than many people realise.”


Glutamate is a salt of glutamic acid. In addition to being one of the 20 major amino acids incorporated into the peptide chains of proteins, it is a major excitatory amino acid of the central nervous system. It is actually an excitatory neurotransmitter found in the central nervous system of mammals and used as a flavour enhancer in its sodium salt form, monosodium glutamate (MSG). 

The MSG symptom complex (also known as the Chinese restaurant syndrome) and its deleterious effects as a potential excitotoxin can result from ingestion of MSG or glutamate. The symptoms have been outlined above.


L- glutamic acid or glutamate is the active part of MSG. It can also be added to nearly everything. Because it is detached from its usual sodium (monosodium simply means one molecule of sodium), it doesn't even need to be labeled as MSG or monosodium glutamate. It is recommended to avoid anything on the two lists above.

MSG Truth, website 

The information on MSG Truth’s website is up-to-date independent research regarding the amino-acid based food additives, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and Aspartame.


MSG Truth was created by former food process engineer and food scientist, Carol Hoernlein. She earned her degrees in Food Science and Bio-Resource (Agricultural) Engineering at Rutgers University in 1988 and went on to work in the Research and Development Departments at the largest global food companies as a food scientist and food process development engineer.


“The mission of MSG Truth, is to give unbiased information based on science, not profit. Our goal is information sharing. We do not sell supplements or diet books…..We have attempted to give you a comprehensive list of what to avoid.”



*Copyright 2016: The Huntly Centre.

Disclaimer: All material in the website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.


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